EDITORIAL: Clinton must fix blind spot

York Dispatch
  • A State Department report includes critical findings about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.
  • The Clintons have propagated the perception that they believe the rules don't apply to them.
  • Clinton must address this perception and overcome it to ease voters' concerns.

There is one critical blind spot that Bill and Hillary Clinton seem to have. Many Americans — including those who believe they should be in power — perceive them as believing they are above the rules.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talks with local politicians and immigrant activists in New York, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. The meeting of immigrants and advocates was held, in part, to announce the New York Immigrant Action Fund's endorsement of Clinton. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

While Hillary Clinton strives to relate the campaign message that likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is untrustworthy, a State Department report released this past week about her use of a private email server as secretary of state is, as The Associated Press put it, “complicating that message.”

This latest report has the potential to weaken former Secretary of State Clinton’s campaign. She is an accomplished policymaker with a strong record on, among other things, fighting for working Americans. We support her as the Democratic nominee and hope she can run a strong campaign for the White House.

But for years, decades actually, Bill and Hillary Clinton have done too little to quell the perception that they make their own rules, putting their own political self-interest above the good of the people they serve.

The inspector general, appointed by the Obama administration, found Clinton's email set-up violated agency policies and could have left sensitive government information vulnerable. It also complicated federal archiving of her emails, in turn making it more difficult to obtain them under the Freedom of Information Act.

The AP reported that Clinton told an aide that she didn’t want any personal information to be publicly accessible and this is why she didn’t move to a more secure government server.

That’s backward. It’s not more crucial that her private emails don’t become public. It’s more crucial that national security is protected. Her thinking reinforces accusations that the Clintons’ hubris can lead to lapses in judgment, a charge for which there are many examples, such as former President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern.

The former secretary of state insisted Thursday that she had done nothing wrong but admitted instead to a “mistake.”

"Well, it was allowed. And the rules have been clarified since I left about the practice. Having said that, I have said many times, it was a mistake. And, if I could go back, I would do it differently," Clinton said, according to an interview transcript provided to The AP by ABC News.

State Dept. audit faults Clinton in emails

The new report comes at a time when Clinton is fending off challenges from Trump and Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders — and breathes new life into their accusations about her judgment (Sanders) and trustworthiness (Trump).

The sharp rebuke from the State Department's inspector general, obtained by the AP Wednesday, which found Clinton did not seek legal approval for her personal email server, guarantees that the issue will remain alive and well for the likely Democratic presidential nominee for a second summer.

That Clinton’s mistake could cost her credibility in what’s sure to be a tough fight if she ends up squaring off against Trump for the presidency is more than regrettable.

She should have learned this lesson by now: The public’s perception is her reality. Clinton must do what she can to repair her credibility and stop giving the appearance that she believes she is above the rules.

Otherwise, this critical blind spot could become a fatal political liability.